Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
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Benn calls for action on biodiversity loss
The world is failing to protect its natural habitats and species and action internationally is needed as climate change takes hold, Secretary of State for the Environment Hilary Benn will warn today as he delivers the annual Darwin Lecture.
The threat to polar bears, turtles and pandas is well known, but UK species are also at threat from a combination of climate change causing a loss of habitat and food sources. Common sights such as songthrushes, skylarks, toads, common seals, puffins and wood peckers could become rare as these creatures dwindle in numbers and are found in fewer areas. Even the English bluebell wood could become a scarce sight. And the capercaillie, snow bunting and black grouse – once a feature of the British countryside – are now so rare that they could face extinction in the UK.
Speaking at the Natural History Museum, Mr Benn said:
“The truth is that the great challenges before us – our changing climate, the security of our food supplies, human development and biodiversity loss, are bound up together. They are as separate only as the fingers of a single human hand are separate. It is how they work together that makes them so special.
“At present the world is failing to protect its biodiversity. We stand poised between the extinct and the living. We cannot go on as we are.
“2009 has been the year of climate change. 2010 will be the International Year of Biodiversity. Collectively, we need to make that mean something.
“In October 2010 193 countries will meet in Nagoya, Japan, to discuss the fate of the natural world, and the steps we need to take to protect it. When the world came together in this way in 2002 we set a target on protecting biodiversity.
“The international community has failed to give this target the priority it needs. And as a consequence, the world is going to fail to meet it. We can’t let this happen again.”
Mr Benn will today call for the international community to set a new target for improving biodiversity, establish a new international structure for protecting the marine environment and stop global over-fishing and create an Intergovernmental Science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an equivalent to the IPCC for biodiversity. He will also champion the work of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) project, chaired by Pavan Sukhdev that will help the international community to value the economics of eco-systems. He will also encourage the United States of America to join the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
Mr Benn will say that:
“We will have to take into account in the decisions we make, the value of biodiversity and ecosystems and recognise the true costs we incur when we damage or degrade our natural resources. To value for money we will need to add value for nature.”
Mr Benn also called on the public to play their part in helping to protect our natural habitats and species:
“Everybody has a part to play. Find something you care about – our wonderful woodland or your favourite birds, animals, plants – and do something to help them flourish. Help coppice a wood, plant wild flowers in your garden to create a habitat for birds and insects, eat MSC accredited fish or pull up a paving slab and plant a tree.”
Hilary Allison, Policy Director, Woodland Trust from The Woodland Trust agreed:
“Volunteering with the Woodland Trust allows you to take action for woods and trees which create healthy places for people and wildlife, as well as underpinning a healthy and functioning environment for us all. Whether it’s the simple act of planting a tree, helping to improve paths for more enjoyable woodland walks or helping to record our irreplaceable heritage of ancient trees, everyone and anyone can play their part. “
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